The St. Albert Flyers continued their rapid rise to provincial championship status as the Sutter North Cup champions in the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
The midget 15 Flyers swept the provincial qualification tournament after going 32-4-1 (200 GF/54 GA) as the north division leaders.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played all year. There weren’t any individuals. We just played as a team,” said head coach Joel Bernard. “It’s tough getting guys to play the right way all the time and we weren’t perfect by any means but we did a really good job of doing that and it certainly helped that our coaching staff is full of good guys with of lots of good knowledge.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the team’s championship picture.
The Flyers will now challenge the CNHA Canucks, Lethbridge Hurricanes, CBHA Rangers, Canadian Athletic Club and the host Grande Peace Storm for provincial supremacy next week in Grande Prairie.
“For us, everybody is going to have to play hard defensively. There are some really good offensive teams going there,” Bernard said. “The other big test is that if we were to get to the final you have to play seven games in four days, so we have to make sure to keep everybody healthy and use our guys efficiently in our round robin games and make sure that we’ve got enough gas left to get all the way to the end.”
The Canucks, Hurricanes and Rangers qualified as the Sutter South Cup reps and in the south standings the Hurricanes (29-2-6, 201 GF/59 GA) finished first and the Canucks (21-10-6, 155 GF/106 GA) and Rangers (20-13-4, 106 GF/44 GA) were third and fourth, respectively.
The Flyers lost 5-2 to the Canucks at the Prospects Cup in November at Chestermere and 2-1 to the Rangers at Akinsdale Arena in the last league game before the Sutter North Cup.
“The south is going to be a real tough test for us. They’re all really good offensively with little more speed in their game. Their offence is a little better than what some of the north teams had so it’s going to be another test for us defensively,” Bernard said.
The Canadians (15-16-6, 123 GF/129 GA) went from seventh in the north to the Sutter North Cup final and the last-place team was the Storm (5-28-4, 94 GF/189 GA).
The Flyers plowed through the competition last week at Terwillegar Community Rec Centre with wins of 4-2 against the eighth-place Lloydminster rage (7-25-5), 2-1 against the sixth-place Leduc Oil Kings (17-18-2) and 4-1 against the fourth-place KC Centennials (25-10-2) in pool A and in the semifinals downed the third-place PAC Saints (26-11) 6-1 to clinch not only a provincial berth but a shot at the tournament title.
The final was 4-0 over the Canadians as Evan Fradette stopped 18 shots for his seventh shutout of the season and team’s 10th.
“We played better every game we played,” Bernard said.
Erik Boers sniped his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament to open the scoring on the power play in the first period.
In the middle frame, Kyle Fulton connected with the man advantage and Carson Henry potted the team’s third goal in the last minute of the period.
Brett Bamber scored early in the third as the Flyers registered 45 shots on net.
Fradette also started the semifinal against the Saints after rotating net duties with Ryley Osland throughout the season.
Fradette (15-2) led all AMMHL netminders with a .947 save percentage, 1.18 GAA and six shutouts.
Osland (17-2-1) was third overall with a .937 save percentage and 1.65 GAA.
“They’re both really good. It was a hard decision,” Bernard said. “Both our goalies were excellent all weekend but the big thing was everybody was really committed to playing team defence the entire weekend. We had six goals against in five games and everybody really played hard at our end of the ice.”
The playoff against the Saints, and a trip to provincials on the line, brought out the very best in the Flyers.
“The intensity level from us was a lot higher in the semifinal,” Bernard said. “It’s not to say that we weren’t good in the final but we just came out and took over the game right away. We were up 6-1 going into the third so it made life pretty easy that way.”
Fradette was tested 19 times while the Flyers peppered the two Saints’ goalies with 53 shots.
Dominik Cesarz got the Flyers rolling four minutes into the contest and Logan McKinley struck on the power play with 2:03 left in the period to make it 2-1.
“We had been struggling to score a little bit up to that point but when Dom got that first one it was huge for us. It kind of it set the tone for the whole game,” Bernard said.
Boers tallied twice and Bamber and Matt Offenberger notched singles.
Stuart Dovey also had two assists.
Boers, a right winger, led the Flyers in tournament scoring with eight points on a line with Jaron Coles (three goals and two assists) and Cam Aucoin (two goals and three assists).
“Boers was unbelievable. He scored a lot of big goals for us,” Bernard said. “That whole line was awesome but everybody chipped in for us. It wasn’t just one line that’s for sure.”